We have moved! Please visit us at ANTHROECOLOGY.ORG. This website is for archival purposes only.


The ecological systems that suppport all life, including ours

Global Change

Humans are changing the earth, causing global warming, biodiversity loss and pollution


Anthropogenic Biomes (anthromes) are the global ecosystems created by humans


Understanding the processes that sustain human populations and their ecosystems


Tools and techniques for landscape and global ecology

Home » Ecosystems, Land Use, Sustainability

Campfires degrade local ecosystems

Submitted by on January 14, 2009 - 12:06 pm
LagerfeuerHumans have been using fire since prehistory- indeed, it is one of our defining characteristics -distinguishing us from all other species.

There is little doubt that burning of forests to attract game and later, to clear land for agriculture have had long-term global impacts on climate and the biosphere. There is also much evidence of serious ecological consequences to the sustained use of fuelwood and charcoal for household stoves. But until now, the ecological impacts of campfires have not been well studied.

Now a study on the ecological impacts of fireplaces in Swiss recreational forests has demonstrated that firewood collection depletes woody debris, leading to a loss of habitat for plant species in their vicinity (Hegetschweiler et al. 2009). The effects were both on species diversity and density of vegtatation, and included, as wood be expected (pardon the pun), effects caused by the harvest of woody debris and also trampling, over areas of 150 - 200 m2 around each fire site.

While this study discusses only the implications for nature conservation and forest managment, I can only think of the long-term impacts of prehistoric human campfires, starting at the dawn of time!

The ecological impacts of campfires may be the first unique ecological impact of early human populations, though perhaps early burning of forests to attract game was earlier. Either way, interesting food for thought!

Read the paper (requires permission) at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00267-008-9194-3

Hegetschweiler, K., N. van Loon, A. Ryser, H.-P. Rusterholz, and B. Baur. 2009. Effects of Fireplace Use on Forest Vegetation and Amount of Woody Debris in Suburban Forests in Northwestern Switzerland. Environmental Management 43:299-310

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Add your comment below. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar